Saturday, December 08, 2012

Tabla

200 NE 28th Avenue
Happy Hour: 5 - 6 PM, daily


A large number of my favorite places to dine in Portland are all located in the same neighborhood. All on the same street, in fact. It’s a small stretch of NE 28th, between Burnside and Glisan. I am not at all sure what it is about this area…but it seems to draw some of the best restaurants. And those restaurants draw me in. Again and again.


Tabla is one of those restaurants that has me coming back for more. Before, though, it was always something I saved for special occasions. Last time we were there, it was for my birthday. Before that, it was to celebrate a major accomplishment—what, I cannot remember. Either way, it’s a little too pricey for everyday dining (at least according to my budget). But now that they’ve amped up their happy hour menu, I can see us making a return trip much sooner than originally anticipated.

I received an email about the new menu. It was enough to push Tabla to the top of the Happy Hour To Do List. Happy Hour at Tabla runs from five to six, nightly, which allowed us to save it for the weekend and make it an official date night. And an early dinner leaves plenty of time to catch a movie.


We arrived just as they were unlocking the doors. I was concerned that the bar area would fill up and we would not get a seat. I was right to be concerned. The restaurant was only barely starting to fill by the time we left, but every seat at the bar had been taken. It seems that a number of people already know about the new happy hour discounts. You see, the entire bar menu is half off during happy hour. And with the new additions to the menu, it is easy to make a meal out of it.


Although there were a number of discounted drink options, we both decided on one of their specialty cocktails to start. I asked for a recommendation and ended up sampling something that hadn’t even made it to the menu yet. It was a new creation made to replace something listed on the menu that had been viewed as out-of-season. This sparkling concoction--dubbed the Pompelmousse--was light and refreshing and had just a hint of grapefruit.


My husband ordered the Go Go Juice. Made with fresh carrot juice, it looked to be as healthy as can be. I had a sip and would have had more if it weren’t rude to finish two drinks at once. Instead, I left it to him.


For dinner, we ordered just about everything on the menu. There are four very distinct sections listed—cheese, meat, crostini, and pasta. Both the cheese and crostini offer price points that include discounts for ordering more. (It’s a great example of unit rates---which I just happen to be teaching this week at school.) The crostini are listed at 3 for $7, four for $9, or all five for $11. We ordered all five. It sounds as if the toppings change now and then, but vegetarian options are available no matter what. Of the five we sampled, I was able to try three. I enjoyed the one topped with eggplant, but favored both the ricotta and cannellini bean varieties.


There are three fancy cheeses listed on the bar menu as well—and like with the crostini, we ordered all of them. The listings change frequently, but like with most offerings at Tabla, they are all bound to be delicious. My only concern is the risk of falling in love with one specific item and then not being able to find it again. The cheese was served with grilled bread and the server was happy to bring more when she noticed that the initial ratio of bread to cheese wasn’t working for us.


To accompany the cheese, my husband also ordered one of the meat offerings. It was thinly sliced and apparently very delectable. And it seemed to go well with the cheese.

To finish our meal, we both ordered a pasta dish. They are small but bold in flavor. I ordered one of my two favorites that have always remained on the menu (they are that good) and my husband ordered one that I had yet to try.


My pasta dish was a thin pasta—Tagliatelli—that is obviously made in house and is now available (according to that email I received) to take home by the pound. It was a simple dish dressed only with butter and Parmesan. It might not sound like much, but this is one of the dishes that brings me back again and again. It is that good.


I couldn’t not take a bite (or two) of my husband’s pasta selection. It had the most pleasurable hit of Gorgonzola—it was just the right amount.

We were too full in the end to order any dessert, but I would have been more prone to order the one last pasta dish listed in lieu of a sweet treat (not that their desserts aren't fantastic). The final pasta selection is one of my favorites and one that is seen being delivered to tables most often, it seems. It is the Tabla Ravioli and is served with a farm fresh poached egg and poppyseed butter. It is truly delicious. After having passed it up this time, I will most definitely order it upon our next visit—a visit that will occur in the near future now that the happy hour discounts make it more of a possibility.

Food: Exceeds
Drinks: Meets
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets

-b

Tabla on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tabor Tavern

5325 East Burnside
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM, Monday through Friday
Late Night Happy Hour: 10 PM - close, Monday through Saturday


Thanksgiving weekend means more than just turkey and mashed potatoes, more than family get-togethers, more than leftovers that last two weeks in the fridge. Thanksgiving weekend means that Wednesday is Friday, Thursday and Friday serve as Saturday, and you still have the whole weekend to relax and at the same time take care of all those things we take care of on the weekend. And for us, the extra Friday means an extra opportunity for happy hour.

It had been forever since the last time my co-blogger and I planned to happy hour together. (Happy hour IS a verb, in case you didn't know.) This time we had both of our husbands in tow. (Calling them husbands is still new to both of us, so it's exceptionally fun to write when blogging.) With four of us at the table, we had the chance to taste a lot of different dishes. With the two of us writing, you can hear both versions on how things went. I'm fairly certain we were both equally impressed.

The place was pretty empty when we first arrived but quickly filled up. And the mix of customers included a number of young families. Tabor Tavern is most definitely a neighborhood place...and it only makes sense for it to be family-friendly. The kids' menu lists four favorites and all are at a reasonable price.


The happy prices are equally reasonable with items ranging between two and six dollars. I ordered one item from each price point and was impressed with the portion sizes of all three.


The paprika lime chickpeas were a favorite at the table but lacked the crunch that I've grown used to. I still ate a few handfuls of them. I love that I can get such a tasty little punch of protein for only a couple of bucks.


I opted for the house salad over the Caesar (as usual) and was pleased with the presence of pickled red onions. I'm working so hard to love red onions. I've even been adding them to salads at home. The flavor is always so good but so strong that it sticks with me for hours.


Smoked Gouda starring as the main cheese in the spiral macaroni and cheese added such a  strong smokey quality to the dish. It wasn't so strong, though, that I started searching for bacon (which has happened in the past). I loved the spirals but shouldn't have waited so long to take my first bite. During the time that I was eating my salad and snacking on chickpeas, the mac and cheese dried out just a bit. It was still creamy and delicious in the middle but not ooey and gooey like I always want it to be.


Before all of the food arrived, I ordered a Vodka Gimlet. No, it's not on the drink menu. I didn't even notice the drink menu when I first arrived and missed out on ordering one of their specialties. They have a number of appealing options including a very spicy margarita (that you'll read about in my co-blogger's post, I am sure).


Also on the drink menu was the Ray Ray. The server attempted to convince me to order one. I pushed it on my husband when he arrived instead. The drink itself was tasty (but bourbon-based) and came with a curried ice ball. Literally, a frozen ball of curry. It was quite intriguing and very much a frozen ball of curry. It added a lot of flavor to the drink and even more when you licked it straight on. Curry. Straight curry. Frozen.


To accompany the frozen ball of spice, my husband also ordered the fish and chips. It was quite sizable for the price (only $6). I had a few of the fries (yum!) but can't say anything about the fish itself. It looked a bit greasy upon arrival but didn't seem to cause any concern.

Service was close to perfect at Tabor Tavern. It's obvious that this place employs people who really want to impress the customers and make a name for itself as a neighborhood gem. It's nice to know it's there...I just wish that it was still my neighborhood. At least it's on the way home from work.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets

-b


Tabor Tavern on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 23, 2012

Briyo Ceylon Tea Company

http://briyoceylon.com/index.php?pg=hm


No, it's not Happy Hour. Not by our usual definition anyway. It doesn't even fit in with our idea for a Happy Hour Wishlist. Not yet anyway. Not until we can find it on a menu. It's tea. Pure Ceylon tea. And it's from a local company with a great story. A story we want to share with you.

I grew up drinking Red Rose tea. You know, the tea with the little porcelain figures in the bottom of the box. We had a collection. My favorites were the kitties, of course. I didn't really like that tea. But I liked the sugar and cream that went with it.

It wasn't until I was in high school and out of the country that I found a tea I actually liked. I was on exchange in Germany and I was living with a family that ate exactly as I had read in my foreign language textbooks. They had their "dinner" for lunch and a small snack before bed. I had thought at first that I would starve. Instead I gained ten pounds. You see, they fill the hunger in the late afternoon with coffee, tea, and cake. Every single day. I loved the cake...and the tea.

I'm not exactly a tea connoisseur. Not at all, really. I have four or five favorites in the cupboard at all times, but I drink coffee in the morning and save the tea for the days I want to feel cozy. Tea is good for that. And I'm not the only one who thinks so.


A small tea company growing out of Beaverton wants to bring that coziness to you through high quality Ceylon tea. They offer six flavors in single boxes and by the case. You can buy them online and soon in stores across the metropolitan area.


I have tried all but the Earl Grey (something I tend to avoid) and have done so without the need for sugar or cream. The flavors are bold and at the same time clean. They don't need extras. That would only mask the quality. And this tea is of high quality. The leaves are handpicked, packed in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and sealed with the Lion Logo promising Pure Ceylon tea.


Briyo Ceylon is a small company. But they are growing. And I hope to help them continue to grow. First through sharing their story. And then through sharing the flavor and quality with my friends and family.




StreetCar Bistro & Taproom

1101 NW Northrup Street
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 and 10 - midnight, daily

Finding a new happy hour on a Saturday night can often be a bit of a challenge. Finding a new happy hour on a Saturday night that offers good food, good prices, and a good view of college football makes it even harder. But we did it. And we found a pretty fantastic place that will go on the "eat and repeat" list for later. It's definitely one I'll want to return to for dinner and more.

Happy Hour at the StreetCar Bistro and Taproom is new to me AND new to Portland. They've only been open for a couple of months and from what we heard, they are still tinkering with both the food and drink menus. They've got a great location, though, on 11th and Northrup and the crowds have already started piling in.


We were there as a table of four last Saturday. We had a good view of the game (not that I was watching) and were able to really sample the menu. They've got a long list to choose from, and we ordered just about one of everything. Everything but the wings, that is. They ran out early that night.


We started with fancy cocktails. Mine was the Citrio Martini and had only been added to the menu that night. It was a mix of grapefruit vodka, pineapple juice, and orange juice and came with a sugared rim. The menu had listed a candied grapefruit as garnish but the server warned me in advance that those were still in the works and would be available in another day or two. I'm not the biggest fan of grapefruit anything and was a little hesitant to order this cocktail. The combination of citrus and sugar worked well, though, and I was impressed with both the appearance and the flavor (even without the missing garnish).


Less appealing was the whiskey sour across the table. We all took a sip of this one, so I can say for sure that it was not quite up to par. The menu made it out to be something special with egg whites and all. With a little more experimentation, this could easily become my drink of choice (now and then). The egg white addition, though, can lead to trouble. I've had both good and bad. And when it's bad, it's usually very bad. And a lot of what makes it bad is the smell. So not appealing.


The third drink pictured is one that is ONLY available during happy hour (for whatever reason, I am not sure). We know this because there was an attempt at a second following the close of happy hour and it was NOT the same. Not the same at all. This Lemongrass Spitz was delicious and refreshing and "clean" and everything that you would imagine when running through the list of ingredients (basil, ginger, lemongrass vodka, simple syrup, lemonade, and soda water).


I wanted a little of everything on the menu (everything available without meat, that is) and decided to order something extra for the table. When the food came, though, and we got to see the portion sizes...I knew that the extra plate was not at all necessary. In fact, I was almost too full from my own dish to take any extra bites at all. (That's how big portions are at the StreetCar.) It was a very pretty cheese plate, though. It had a little bit of everything. And the bites I did have were quite tasty.



For dinner, I ordered a side salad and a dish of the macaroni and cheese. They offer both a house salad and a Caesar salad for just three dollars during happy hour. The house salad is loaded with olives (watch out for the pits, people) and the Caesar is extra special due to the topping of crispy fried sweet potato strips.


The macaroni and cheese looked to be quite small in its little white ramekin. After the first few bites, I realized that this dish was one of those that just keeps going and going. It was as though I was never going to run out of that creamy deliciousness. (Not everyone at the table thought it was as good as I did, but not everyone at the table has a love for mac and cheese and an ability to eat it again and again like a professional.) The mac and cheese had a mix of four cheeses (including Crater Lake Blue), was topped with herbed breadcrumbs, and had a few granny smith apple slices hidden within for extra crunch and a surprise shot of tartness now and then.


The large portions were not limited to the macaroni and cheese. The Sauteed Shellfish was a HUGE dish and came with an endless supply of bread used to soak up the salty broth. (Too salty for some but just salty enough for others....)


Smashed between two sides of a pub bun were three (yes, THREE) giant meatballs smothered in smoked mozzarella and tomato sauce making the handcrafted meatball sandwich one of the best values on the happy hour menu. And the five dollar price tag included a small salad, too.


The Half BLT had the same good flavors but lacked the ratio needed to make it as much a value as the meatball sandwich. It, too, came with a salad but lacked the strong veggie components needed in the sandwich itself. It needed a little more B, a crunchier L, and a thicker slice of T to make it work.



I always love when a happy hour menu includes a dessert or two. This one did not, but it seemed that all of the desserts listed on the dessert menu came at happy hour prices. We finished our meal with a creme brulee bread pudding that was sweeter than sweet and served with a stout beer caramel sauce. It was a GOOD ending. And one that makes me want to go back for more.


Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Exceeds

-b

Streetcar Bistro & Taproom on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bar Avignon

2138 SE Division Street
Happy Hour: 5 - 6 PM, Monday through Friday


I have four favorite happy hours in Portland, leaving number five to rotate as I find new places that please my palate. Bar Avignon is now my number five. And it has the potential to stay number five for a long, long time.


Bar Avignon has a super short happy hour. That's probably their only flaw. But with food as flavorful as what I had during happy hour, I'm willing to time things just right. I'm also eager to go back and enjoy some of what I saw listed on their regular dinner menu. Maybe I can do both.


There are plenty of things on the happy hour menu that I'm not willing to try. No, I will not be eating oysters or the lamb tongue crostini. Their names alone remind me why I don't eat meat. But the soup of the day, the cheese of the day, the bread, the salads, and the hazelnuts glazed and seasoned with rosemary and paprika make me want more. And I know that I can find the right people to go with me next time who will love seeing such great options.


I enjoyed the most delicious bowl of spicy pumpkin soup when I was there a week or so ago. I know, I know, it's the soup of the day...but with the quality of the ingredients, the textures, and the extra little add-ons, I know that they must all be equally divine.


The salad was one that I was hesitant to order as it contained chicories--usually my least favorite and often left behind on the plate--but with the sliced pears, blue cheese crumbles, and sherry vinaigrette, I was able to finish every bite. It was superb. Superb chicories. That says a lot, in my opinion.


The bread and butter worked well to accompany both the soup and salad. I wasn't able to finish it all and the server was not at all concerned with the idea of wrapping it up to go. How often does that happen at happy hour? 


I was feeling less than adventurous when ordering a drink to go with all of the delicious dishes. They do offer a fancy cocktail discounted during happy hour and well drinks, too. I went with a glass of the happy hour red. It changes daily, I am sure. This glass was a Tempranillo. Like the chicories in the salad, Tempranillo is so very rarely something that I will order. This glass was good and might have just helped to change my mind about Tempranillo. Perhaps it will end up in my list of favorites in the future, too.

Service at Bar Avignon makes it obvious that these people really do care about their customers. I tend to ask a lot of questions when out and about--sometimes too many--and our server was ready to answer every one of them. I am eager to return to Bar Avignon. Whether it be for dinner or just happy hour, I would love to spend more time enjoying both the atmosphere and the flavors. I also want to share the fun that is the space-aged faucet with others. That is most definitely something that shouldn't be kept a secret.


Food: Exceeds
Drinks: Meets
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Meets

-b

Bar Avignon on Urbanspoon

St. Jack

2039 SE Clinton Street
Happy Hour: 4 - 5 PM, everyday


So cute. But so VERY pricey.

I would love to go back to St. Jack for dinner but am afraid that it is one of those places where I must wait until it's for a very special occasion. Very, very special. When a bowl of soup is listed at ten dollars, it's a sign that the rest of the menu is going to include some very high prices.


Prices on the happy hour menu range from three to nine dollars (ten if you add bacon). I'm sure that Le Hamburger is worth every penny, but I also know that you can find pretty fantastic hamburgers at other establishments in Portland during happy hour (happy hours that last longer than just one hour, I might add) for a LOT less.


The fries were good, though. And they were only three dollars. They were teeny tiny match stick fries that were covered with salt. Yummy, yummy salt that made me want more. And the dipping sauce was some sort of heavenly aioli.


The fancy Cervelle De Canut (cheese spread) was also quite delicious and one of the only other items listed at a reasonable price. Kudos, too, for the server who recognized that the ratio of bread to spread was way off and offered up another chunk of baguette.


What I loved most (and what makes me want to return) was the frosted martini glass containing what was probably the most delicious scotch-based cocktail I've ever tasted. Usually I avoid anything with a scotch, bourbon, or whiskey base. (I'll take sips when they are offered, but never do I order such things.) This was, however, one of the only cocktail options listed with a discount during happy hour so I felt like I just had to give it a try. It was called De Rigueur and it was delicious. Seriously, I never thought I would have said so. It must have been the fresh grapefruit juice or the combination of honey in the mix that made it so very appealing. Either way, that's the thing that will get me back to St. Jack's.

Perhaps the thing to do is head there after dinner for fancy cocktails and dessert.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Exceeds
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Nearly Meets

-b

Patisserie St. Jack on Urbanspoon